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Hamas finance official killed in airstrike

Israel called on Gaza residents to evacuate buildings housing Hamas operations; 16 people died in airstrikes on Sunday.

Adel Hana/Associated Press

Israel called on Gaza residents to evacuate buildings housing Hamas operations; 16 people died in airstrikes on Sunday.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — An Israeli missile strike in Gaza City killed the Hamas official responsible for the Islamic group’s financial transactions, in one of a wave of attacks aimed at the Hamas leadership, the Israeli military said.

The missile killed the official as he rode in a car, ripping open the vehicle and scattering American currency on the street, according to a witness. Gaza authorities did not immediately identify the victim, but the Israeli military said he was Muhammad al-Ghoul, who it said handled Hamas’s “terror funds.”

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The missile attack was the latest in a string of recent Israeli airstrikes based on what appears to be precise intelligence about the movements of some Hamas operatives who have emerged from their bunkers as the more intensive fighting has subsided.

Last week, airstrikes killed three senior Hamas commanders in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, and Israel tried to assassinate Mohammed Deif, the chief of Hamas’s military wing, whose fate remains unknown.

Israeli forces continued on Sunday to strike Palestinians suspected of being militants and buildings in which they are said to operate in Gaza as militants fired scores of rockets and mortar rounds into Israel.

Israeli airstrikes leveled a seven-floor office building and severely damaged a retail and office complex in the Gaza Strip early Sunday, signaling a new escalation in seven weeks of fighting with Hamas, the Associated Press reported.

The strikes in Rafah came just hours after Israel bombed a residential tower in Gaza City, collapsing the 12-story building with 44 apartments.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said 16 Palestinians were killed by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, including the financial official of Hamas, which dominates Gaza. It said 52 people were wounded.

In the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, artillery shells or missiles hit a home, killing five people, including a mother and her three children. Hours after the strike on Ghoul’s car at least two missiles hit his home, destroying it.

In remarks broadcast Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called on the residents of Gaza “to immediately evacuate any building from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity.”

Netanyahu added: “Any such place is a target for us. In recent days we have proven there is no immunity for those who fire at Israel’s citizens.”

The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for firing mortar rounds at the Erez crossing point on Gaza’s northern border with Israel. The attack wounded four Israeli civilians who were providing humanitarian assistance at the crossing, according to Israeli authorities.

In a separate development Sunday, aides to the Palestinian president said he will soon appeal to the international community to set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war and make way for an independent Palestinian state, the AP reported.

The aides said President Mahmoud Abbas would unveil his proposal at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Tuesday. They said it was part of a comprehensive response to the current war in the Gaza Strip. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Abbas has not yet made the plan public.

One official said Abbas has grown disillusioned after two decades of failed efforts to reach a negotiated peace settlement with Israel. He said the Palestinians want a fixed date for an Israeli withdrawal from lands claimed by the Palestinians and a timetable for establishing a Palestinian state.

‘‘This should be done through a mechanism to compel Israel as the occupying power to end its occupation and agree on a timetable for the implementation of the withdrawal,’’ he said.

With Israel at war with Hamas militants in Gaza, Abbas has been searching for ways to assert himself on the international stage. He is eager to show the Palestinian public he is working to end the fighting and lead the Palestinians to independence.

In an interview on Egyptian television over the weekend, Abbas said he would soon present his plans to Arab, American, and European leaders.

‘‘It is an unconventional solution, but I will not declare a war on Israel. It is a political and diplomatic solution,’’ he said.

He declined to elaborate, saying only that he would tell the United Nations in an address next month that the Palestinians want independence immediately. ‘‘Otherwise, this opportunity will be lost forever,’’ he said.

An aide to Abbas said the plan would include an appeal to the Security Council to call for an end to Israel’s occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza for their state. Israel captured all three areas in 1967, though it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

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